(EAST LAMPETER TOWNSHIP, Penn.) — Investigators have found human remains in a rural Pennsylvania area during the search for an Amish teenager who has been missing for 10 months, authorities said.
Linda Stoltzfoos, 18, was reported missing on June 21 when she did not return from a youth group she was supposed to attend. Investigators believe she was abducted while walking home from church, police said.
On Wednesday, the Lancaster County District Attorney’s Office announced that members of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pennsylvania State Police and the East Lampeter Township Police Department in Lancaster County recovered human remains in a rural area of eastern Lancaster County.
“The scene will be forensically processed, and the remains will then be released to the Lancaster County Coroner for official identification and determination of cause and manner of death,” the district attorney’s office said in a statement.
Since her disappearance, law enforcement and volunteers have searched over 15,000 hours for Stoltzfoos, according to the district attorney’s office.
“The Stoltzfoos family has been notified of this update and are understandably still processing this information,” the district attorney’s office said Wednesday. “We ask that the family be given privacy during this difficult time.”
In July, the East Lampeter Township Police Department charged 34-year-old Justo Smoker with felony kidnapping and misdemeanor false imprisonment in connection with Stoltzfoos’ disappearance.
The Lancaster County district attorney also charged Smoker with one count of criminal homicide in December after prosecutors concluded that, based on the teen’s continued disappearance, the suspect had allegedly caused her death.
“There was nothing found, no report or evidence, that indicates Linda was planning to leave her home and community,” District Attorney Heather Adams said at the time. “And since June 21, there have been no signs of Linda or traces of activity or routines involving Linda.”
In March, a judge ruled there was enough evidence to proceed with the homicide charge.
Smoker is incarcerated at Lancaster County Prison awaiting trial. He was ruled ineligible for bail due to the nature of the charges and the ongoing investigation.
During the investigation, authorities obtained and viewed surveillance footage that showed Stoltzfoos on Beechdale Road near the community of Bird-In-Hand, which would have been her walking route back home after church, as well as a red Kia Rio involved in the alleged abduction that fit the description of Smoker’s vehicle registration and bumper stickers. Statements from multiple witnesses also allegedly placed Stoltzfoos in Smoker’s car, authorities said.
Investigators searched a rural location in Ronks, Pennsylvania, where they believed Stoltzfoos may have been taken following her alleged abduction and found her bra and stockings buried in a wooded area, authorities said. Cellphone evidence showed Smoker allegedly traveled to that site several times, prosecutors said.
Smoker’s defense attorney, Lancaster County Chief Public Defender Christopher Tallarico, said in court last month there was no proof that Stoltzfoos had ever gotten into Smoker’s car, Harrisburg ABC affiliate WHTM reported.
ABC News’ Jon Haworth contributed to this report.
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